Sierra Club may sue Ameren over Missouri coal plant emissions

The Sierra Club on Dec. 12 delivered a notice of intent to sue to Ameren Corp. (NYSE: AEE) for what the club claims are nearly 10,000 violations of the Clean Air Act from emissions at coal-fired plants of Ameren Missouri located in St. Louis, Jefferson and Franklin counties in Missouri.

Ameren’s own data shows that it recorded close to 10,000 opacity violations, the club said. Ameren reports data from its coal plants’ monitoring systems quarterly to the Missouri Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The Sierra Club requested the data from the DNR, which the club said revealed violations of the Clean Air Act by exceeding the opacity limits allowed in Ameren’s permit on thousands of occasions between 2008 and 2013.

“Ameren’s Meramec coal plant emits troubling levels of pollutants just a mile down the road from one of our local elementary schools,” said Karl Frank Jr., St. Louis County father and former Mehlville School Board member. “We can’t allow our children to be exposed to this dangerous coal pollution anymore.”

Research by the Clean Air Task Force has shown that pollution from Ameren’s Labadie coal plant in Franklin County, Meramec coal plant in St. Louis County and Rush Island coal plant in Jefferson County contribute to 3,870 asthma attacks, 360 heart attacks and 226 premature deaths every year, the club said.

Ameren draws more than 75% of its energy from coal-fired plants, far more than the national utility average of 42%, the club noted. The utility has only installed widely available pollution control technology at one of its area coal-fired plants, it added.

The club is required by law to provide 60 days’ notice of its intent to sue before it can file suit in federal court. The club said it has invited Ameren to discuss the violations during that 60-day window in the hope that an amicable resolution may be reached.

Mike Menne, Ameren’s Vice President of Environmental Services, said in a Dec. 13 e-mail statement to GenerationHub“Ameren Missouri has at all times operated our energy centers in accordance with EPA regulations and permitting requirements. Contrary to the assertions by the Sierra Club, unauthorized opacity exceedances occur infrequently and existing pollution control equipment removes approximately 99 percent of particulates from the flue gas stream. We report all of our emissions as required to EPA, and the agency has not cited our Missouri coal-fired energy centers for opacity or permit violations. The filing of such litigation is a common tactic used by opponents who are striving to remove coal from energy choices available to customers.”

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.